In the northern hemisphere, July is the height of the holiday season. Time to refresh, regroup, kick back, chill out.

For many of us involved in college admissions, it marks the annual summer conference where we catch up, learn, and try to digest what has just happened this last year.

As I reach the end of my first-year solo, I have become aware of so many things that should seem obvious.

Schools across the world have teachers who are stretched, by curriculums, by workloads, by a myriad of extra duties.

In UK style systems it is teachers who are generally given an ‘add-on’ of university advising. Dedicated advisors are rare – particularly those who have knowledge and experience of ‘other’ countries.

In US style systems, the counsellor may have many roles. College counselling can be just one of them. Or the day job. But when schools start that varies. Dramatically.

Students struggle with either a dearth of information rolled parsimoniously or an excess, a glut to anyone who’s ever grown zucchini, courgettes, will be most familiar. What to do with ALL that data?

I’ve had students turn to me because of either a lack of advice (none) or a wish to extrapolate analysis from data. How do I interpret that syllabus? What do I have to do to be successful?

I keep coming back to the fundamental skill of close reading. Read the prospectus or syllabus. What exactly is it a university course or exam requires?

I heard yesterday from a friend at a university that there were students surprised that university wasn’t always exciting – that engineering required mathematics. Seriously! And I feel sorry for the students. They didn’t know.

If you’re waiting for exam results wondering whether you made your conditional offer to go to university, look carefully at what you’re getting into.

If you’re about to apply to university this year, read the prospectus again and ask for details of the course. Ignore the name. Focus on whether the course interests you.

And if you’re about to begin either A levels, Advanced Placements, the International Baccalaureate or any other course which takes a year or two with terminal assessments, focus on why you’ve chosen the subjects you have and what’s involved in the course. If you’ve something particular in mind for university, check you’re taking that subject at the right level. Your school may be able to accommodate you, if you let them know before term begins.

Take time to think as well as chill…